Find Yourself, But Don’t Lose Others In The Process

Your own private journey could be leaving others behind

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‘Interior with an Easel’ (1912) by Vilhelm Hammershøi. Source Wikimedia Commons

ou know what you prefer, don’t you? You like to retreat into your private cocoon for the comfort it gives, where it is calm, where life simplifies and your blood flows well, tiredness abating.

Empty rooms, simple spaces. Here the air is elegant, light-filled.

Your private territory is where others cannot follow; this is why it’s so reassuring, of course. It is also how your isolation grows.

It is true: nothing else quite compares to the gentle landscape of that pure-land, your wildgrass kingdom. Where else has such privacy, where else has such fertile plains?

But this is how the outside world is pushed into the distance. The love and affection you feel for others is a curtailed, kept hidden, secret, over-wintered.

Your authenticity is at stake, you say. Such thoughts seem to offer an antidote to the overall fragmentation. You have a propensity to leap between so many ideas of yourself and how you ought to fulfill them. Your mind is often diffused by the interruption of so many obligations. This is why you retreat.

The protean self — from the Greek sea-god Proteus: a constantly changing form, encouraged to fragment into new combinations as new possibilities arise. Mother-tongues are multiplied, futures are floated. Airline tickets, a smartphone buzzing, Time Out, Twitter, a suitcase on wheels, coffee cup, laptop, multiple income streams, unique selling point, opportunities strewn wherever there are words. Psychologists talk of a multiplicity of selves, of plural personas, of a polyphony of voices.

Your hunt for authenticity can be all-consuming. You worry that to be inauthentic is to be deceptive, apocryphal or feigned. You worry about this a lot, how inauthenticity disfigures the truth for other advantages.

Yet, when you retreat you also hide away, and so you are in danger of becoming exactly what you don’t want.

Then you feel injured by your isolation. Loved-ones wonder where you have been. You have betrayed yourself.

Consider this: You don’t need to abandon life to be who you are.

Take your time. Again. Take your time. When you are open, and when you love and love well, you are a fuller person. Give yourself the time to show it. Find yourself but be careful to not lose others in the process.

Take some time away from your work, remember your old heroes but don’t revere them too strongly. Dust off some buried memories and recall your original commitments. Look up from your books occasionally. You have the time, so there’s no need to rush.

This approach may make all the difference.

Written by

Art historian and art critic, writer, artist. Author of “How to Read Paintings”

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